Though certainly not a loaded league, the Southeastern Conference has a few top-10 quality teams in Florida and Missouri and a supremely talented Kentucky squad, all of whom should feast on the likes of Mississippi State and Auburn:
1. FLORIDA (24-6, 14-4): With the best coach and the most experienced roster, Gators are the team to beat. They get the nod over Missouri because they’ll finish 1-1 against Kentucky.
2. MISSOURI (25-6, 14-4): With Michael Dixon, this would be the team to beat. Tigers have plenty of talent, but 3-point shooting struggles and the lack of a legitimate backup at point guard (plus a road game against Kentucky) will be the difference.
3. KENTUCKY (22-9, 13-5): Enough talent to win the conference but will endure growing pains and a few surprising losses early in league play.
4. MISSISSIPPI (23-8, 12-6): A veteran group that should be in the NCAA Tournament, but the Rebels didn’t play anybody in the nonconference and lost at Middle Tennessee State and Indiana State.
5. ALABAMA (20-11, 12-6): Solid coach, solid point guard in Trevor Releford, the younger brother of kansas’ 37-year-old shooting guard. Opening win at Missouri would be huge.
6. ARKANSAS (20-11, 11-7): If Mike Anderson figures out a way to win on the road (the Hogs are 0-3 this year), Arkansas is a sleeper to win the SEC.
7. TENNESSEE (18-12, 10-8): Cuonzo Martin has done a nice job of digging the Volunteers out of Bruce Pearl’s ruble, but Tennessee isn’t quite there yet.
8. TEXAS A&M (17-14, 7-11): The Aggies aren’t as bad as they were during a wildly disappointing 2011-12, but they did lose to Southern. At home.
9. LSU (16-13, 7-11): Wins against the likes of McNeese State and Houston Baptist helped the Tigers to a 9-2 nonconference. They also lost by 20 to Boise State.
10. GEORGIA (12-19, 6-12): The Bulldogs appeared to be on the upswing a few years ago but have slid considerably. They have won four straight after a 2-7 start.
11. VANDERBILT (12-18, 6-12): Kevin Stallings lost a ton of talent, and it’s shown during the Commodores’ 6-6 start that includes a 17-point loss to Marist.
12. AUBURN (11-20, 5-13): The Tigers have a win against a surprisingly mediocre Florida State team and little else.
13. SOUTH CAROLINA (15-16, 5-13): All the screaming and acting a fool won’t be enough in Frank Martin’s first season. It’s called a sorry-ass team, ever hear of that, Stan?
14. MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-21, 4-14): Not much to say about a team that lost at home to Alabama A&M.
ALL-CONFERENCE: Phil Pressey, point guard, Missouri; Archie Goodwin, guard, Kentucky; Kenny Boynton, guard, Florida; Murphy Holloway, forward, Mississippi; B.J. Young, guard, Arkansas.
COACHES OF THE YEAR: Billy Donovan, Florida; Frank Haith, Missouri.